When we use the term ‘health’, we usually focus only on the physical aspect of it. Mental health is rarely talked about openly. Only in recent years have we seen an outpouring of discussions about mental health and its importance in our daily lives. Mental health has also formerly been excluded from health insurance policies.

Thankfully, times are changing. The Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 set down new, progressive rules relating to the way mental illnesses are treated by hospitals as well as health insurance providers. It states “provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness is done on the same basis as is available for treatment of physical illness”. In short, there shall be no discrimination against mentally ill persons in the realm of healthcare, including health insurance.

Forwarding this mandate, the Insurance and Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI) also issued guidelines to insurers asking for the removal of policy wordings that exclude mental illnesses.  This is indeed a huge step forward.

According to the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017, the term mental illness refers to any ‘substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation, or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviours, capacity to recognize reality or meet the ordinary demands of life’. Mental retardation is not considered within the definition of mental illness. Now, health insurance can cover psychological disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, mood disorders, disorders relating to anxiety and stress, and so on. Some common illnesses that may now be covered are:


– Obsessive-compulsive disorder

– Anxiety disorders

– Acute depression 

– Bipolar disorder 

Now, health insurance provides coverage for expenses incurred during the treatment of many mental health disorders. For the most part, this includes costs of hospitalization, in-patient care, diagnostic tests, medications, room rent, ambulance charges, and so on. Often, a major requirement in mental health disorders is seen in outpatient needs through counselling and therapy. Some insurance providers may cover the charges for this under their OPD benefit. An important point to keep in mind is that very few insurance providers offer standalone mental health insurance policies. Mental illnesses are usually covered along with other physical ailments in normal health insurance plans. Do keep in mind that features and inclusions within mental health insurance policies will differ between various insurance providers.

The inclusion of mental disorders in health insurance can be quite beneficial for people who have undergone any traumatic experience, as they are vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorders. The coverage is also a boon for people with a family history of mental illness. With the stress and anxieties of modern life, many are susceptible to mental health problems. Therefore, the inclusion of mental illnesses in health insurance policies has been considered a welcome move by many.

Moreover, people who have sought treatment for mental illnesses will understand how expensive it can get. The consultation charges are quite high, the medicines are costly and in-hospitalization often requires special care of the patient- all these can take a toll on us financially. If the patient is bearing the expenses themselves, the financial worries might prove to be a roadblock in their recovery. In such a scenario, having the assurance of health insurance can do wonders.

Another benefit of including mental illnesses in health insurance is that we slowly come closer towards accepting and normalizing the treatment of mental illnesses. If mental illnesses are not considered at par with physical illnesses, patients may hesitate to get treatment when they require it. This could lead to further isolation of people with mental illnesses. Moreover, the coverage for mental illnesses will also create more awareness among the masses. And, the need for awareness cannot be underestimated in a country where around 7.5% of the population is known to be impacted by mental health conditions.

Let’s focus on mental health matters because mental health matters. We hope this article has helped you. Take care.